The Ringmaster is a stereotypical showman and businessman, with his main objective being to put on a decent, and entertaining show for profit. While an average and human agenda, his manner of doing so is extremely dubious, with several moments throughout the film hinting at the Ringmaster's nature behind closed doors. According to his undervalued roustabouts, the Ringmaster is an abusive figure, forcing his crew to work through harsh conditions, all the while spewing derogatory, and even racist names. It is mentioned by both the roustabouts and the clowns that he underpays his employees greatly, with the clowns all eventually asking him for a raise. His treatment of the animals (specifically the elephants) is also an indication of the Ringmaster's cruelty, as he carelessly has them perform impossible and life-threatening stunts as a means to draw in box office revenue. According to animation historian John Canemaker, this was purposefully done, as Dumbo has a cynical outlook on the traveling circus industry, highlighting how the entire setup is nothing more than a cheap, often sadistic illusion. Despite this, he is never shown to be quite as outwardly malicious as other villains introduced before or after him. He is, at his worst, a man running a show in an extremely questionable manner.
The animals of the circus, in particular the elephants and Timothy Mouse, do not think too highly of the Ringmaster, finding him pompous and oafish—the latter of which isn't entirely untrue, as a recurring gag with the Ringmaster involves him tumbling into a barrel of water.
He is first seen when the train named Casey Junior is all loaded and ready to go, and shouts "All aboard!" and the train whistles back "All aboard! Let's go!". He is seen again leading the circus parade after they've arrived at their first city.
When some mean kids start to make fun of Dumbo's big ears, Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo's mother, starts attacking them in an attempt to protect her son. However, the Ringmaster, not having seen the kids bullying Dumbo, tries to stop her, only to be splashed into Dumbo's barrel where he took a bath in earlier.
Furious, the Ringmaster has the "mad elephant" locked up in a cage. Later, he talks to his assistant Joe about a pachyderm pyramid, but has no clue what his climax will be. Timothy the Mouse, who (along with Dumbo) heard this, convinces the Ringmaster in his sleep to make Dumbo the climax so that Mrs. Jumbo can be let out. The next day, the Ringmaster puts the act into use, but Dumbo trips over his ears and causes the pyramid to fall, setting off a catastrophic chain of events which leads to the tent itself falling down and leaving the Ringmaster disappointed at the disaster that resulted from his big idea.
Seeing no other use for Dumbo, he teams the little elephant with the clowns so to give him a role without causing anything disastrous. During a show in which Dumbo jumps off a higher building, he sees Dumbo soar over the crowd. He points in amazement to see something he never saw before. He receives his comeuppance via public humiliation, as Dumbo uses his ability to fly by running the Ringmaster in a water-filled barrel (echoing what Mrs. Jumbo did earlier) then throwing one of the clowns' elephant mask atop his rear.
Though he isn't seen again, the Ringmaster finally makes Dumbo the main star of his circus, gives Dumbo his own train car, and best of all, lets Mrs. Jumbo out of solitary confinement.
In the video game, the Ringmaster, and several other Disney Villains, plan on stealing the endings of their respective stories, and altering them so that they may get the happily ever after. The Ringmaster alters the story of Dumbo and forces the baby elephant to perform nonstop. He also alters the circus' overall look, making it seem like a horror film-esqe area. However, thanks to Jiminy Cricket and Mrs. Jumbo, the circus, and Dumbo, is saved. In the climax of the game, he and the other villains attempt to stop the player and Jiminy from restoring the stories by each taking one of the happy ending pages. He is defeated when the player uses the book containing the stories as a shield.
While not appearing physically, the Ringmaster serves as the spokesperson for the Casey Jr. Circus Train, providing guests with the typical safety and tidbit lines normally given by cast members, albeit in his thick accent.
- The Ringmaster's original voice actor, Herman Bing, actually worked as a circus clown at one point in his life.
- The scene where the silhouetted Ringmaster and Joe converse in the tent was inspired by German expressionist films.
- ↑ Dumbo: Big Top Edition DVD commentary